* The Mustang ASC McLaren Roadster *
For several years I had been thinking I wanted an early '50's Ford pickup with a custom restoration and modern running gear. But for some reason I never really pursued it. I was also toying with the idea of a CanAm Spyder Roadster.
I thought one of these would fit me fine... --
But there was some family resistance to such a ride.
I have been riding a tadpole trike (pedal type recumbent) for many years and have learned to appreciate the stability of the tadpole design. But in spite of it's having 3 wheels, certain members of the family didn't think I needed such a motorized machine. Then after talking with a family member about a mid-sixties Mustang convertible he was interested in selling, I realized that I already have a classic Ford pickup, so why get another when there is limited room for parking/storage? ...and why not get a convertible? After deciding against that buying that Mustang, I began looking at other vintage Mustang convertibles I had found online. One really caught my eye ...a 1988 Mustang ASC McLaren Roadster. I had heard of these factory modified Mustangs and had seen one a time or two, but was not very familiar with the details of their creation. I also was not terribly fond of the Fox Body Mustangs, but something about this one grabbed me, so I did some research.
The Mustang ASC McLaren is a very limited edition specialized vehicle that was produced by ASC with Ford's complete cooperation, much like the Shelby, Saleen and Roush Mustangs. ASC (Automobile Specialty Company, a division of American Sunroof Corporation ...later American Specialty Cars) was already doing work for Ford and other auto makers in adding sunroofs to new cars, and in making on-off convertibles for some manufacturers, before delivery to dealers. A Detroit area designer/customizer named Peter Muscat came up with the idea for a Mustang 2-seat roadster convertible, and after negotiations with Ford he partnered with ASC and McLaren to produce the vehicles. The first ASC McLarens were based on the Mercury Capri. There were 552 convertibles and 290 coupes produced from 1984-1986. When the Capri was discontinued, they moved to producing Mustang ASC McLarens in 1987. Overall, there were 1,806 Mustang ASC Mclaren Roadsters produced from 1987-1990.
...and I ended up with this very special little car! --
a 1988 Mustang ASC McLaren Roadster in Black Cherry Metallic
ASC learned a lot about necessary cooperation with the manufacturer during production of the Capri McLarens, and during the Mustang years they received specially prepared Mustang LX Coupes from the production line for transformation into 2-seat roadster convertibles. Potential buyers could walk into a Ford dealership and order the Mustang option D32 package, and end up with a Mustang ASC McLaren.
There were some varying options over the years, but basically ASC ordered an LX Coupe on the convertible chassis with GT front fascia; many of the GT options; no headliner; no rear seats/seatbelts; deleted trunk lock; 5.0 HO engine with B303 roller camshaft; Thunderbird Coupe tie rod ends; and no badges/markings of any kind. ASC lasered the roof off, did additional sheet metal work to the rear half of the car, and tipped the A-pillar back at a sharper angle. They also added additional chassis bracing in the rocker panel areas, transmission tunnel, and trunk. The seats in some years were replaced with real Recaro leather seats and in others were special GT seats recovered in leather, with leather treatments on the steering wheel and gear shift along with installation of an ASC-only console.
McLaren's contribution was primarily in suspension alterations with springs, shocks, re-valved struts, wheels, and lowering the car apx 1". The cars (ordered from Ford in either white or black) were then given special Sikkens paint in colors not otherwise available from Ford. During the Capri years, some cars had contrasting stripes (often in "ASC McLaren Orange") along the sides, while during the Mustang years the cars were done in a monocromatic design. They were available with the standard 5-speed manual, or optional automatic transmission. Only 27% were built with the 5-speed manual. Final touches included special taillight covers, subtle ASC McLaren badging on front and rear, a Limited Edition numbered dash plate, and a small "Design by Peter Muscat" badge on the passenger side to the rear of the door.
The result was a unique 2-seat roadster with some resemblance to the Mecerdes SL, from which much of Peter Muscat's original inspiration came. You see, his wife had a Mercedes SL. She worked for Ford, and Ford would not allow employees to park non-Ford cars where she wanted to park. So she asked her designer husband to desing and build her a Ford 2-seat roadster convertible like her beloved Mercedes. There are two small storage compartments included in the area where the back seat was. Many who see a Mustang ASC McLaren are not sure what they are looking at. Some recognize it as a Ford or even as a Mustang, while others simply are not sure what it is. It can be interesting to listen to their speculation. Whatever the reaction, it is a neat automobile, and a fun one to drive.
The Euro-style cloth top is manually operated, and easily folds for storage into the u-shaped area where most of the back seat was on other 1988 Mustangs. The tonneau cover is a fiberglass panel that latches down to cover the stowed top, leaving a very clean appearance and the illusion of a much longer rear deck. When in the raised position, the rear bow of the top is secured to the rear deck with a power operated screw fastener.
I had a choice of renting a trailer and driving my motorhome to Kansas and back to get the car home, or paying for shipping. I quickly found that shipping was surprisingly reasonable in cost, so that was the choice. The car was loaded on a car hauler transport in Kansas on Saturday, and after twice switching to other carriers, it arrived at my home apx 550 miles South on Wednesday at a cost just under $1 per mile.
This particular ASC McLaren is #041 of 1,015 produced in 1988, and one of 27 with the Black Cherry Metallic paint. It has a black top, but according to production information most likely originally had a wine top. I bought the car from a specialty car dealer who bought it at auction in Kansas City. According to CarFax, during it's lifetime, it has been registered to owners in Kentucky, Washington, and Virginia. In the first 13 years of it's life it was driven 41,600 miles. In the next 13 years it was driven only apx 1,800 miles, for a total of 43,600 when I took possession.
The car is in almost factory original condition. At some point it received minor damage to the driver side front and rear, requiring replacement of the bumper fascia, headlight and left taillight. For whatever reason, whoever did the work failed to replace the original rear lower valence or taillight covers (cost?) ...both were missing when I bought the car. The car was totally repainted ...a decent job, but not professionally perfect by any means, and a new Flowmaster exhaust system was installed. If you look closely at the side view picture at the top of this page, you can see that the taillight covers are not there. That "look" lasted one month before I just had to replace them as I like the covers much better than the naked OEM fixtures. Unless you can find used parts from someone parting out a car, the unique McLaren parts are available only from one source who bought all remaining stock after production ended so some parts can be costly. The absence of the lower rear bumpter valence is not very noticeable, but the car just wasn't right to me without the distinctive taillight covers!
Also missing were the Ford Owner Manual and McLaren supplement, the carpeted matching ASC McLaren floor mats (replaced with dark gray!), the scissor jack and the lug wrench. Inside the car, on the unique ASC-only console the ash tray door was missing with the surrounding framework broken off on one side. In the ash tray's place was a cup holder that anchored in the ash tray hole, mostly covering the damage. I found the cup holder unusable with the manual transmission shifter, so I replaced the ashtray, broken tray famework & door spring. I also replaced the console insert which was broken around every screw attachment point. There is other plastic trim with cracks or breaks that I will have to tend to eventually.
It appears that after the first owner drove the car an average of 3,200 miles each year and had the fender bender in the late 1990's, it was owned by a succession of two collectors who drove the car very little, and tinkered with it a bit. Many of the "fixes" in various areas could only be described as make-do or "mickey mouse" maintenance (ie. using a piece of electrical wire for a cotter key!). The original shocks were replaced with coil-over adjustable shocks in the front, but the coils were torched off too short ...the shocks were set to the very bottom with no travel and the coils served only to rattle around. The coils were revoved and the shocks adjusted to allow for soem travel and the car rides and handles much better. The self-adjusting clutch mechanism had been removed, with the plastic quadrant replaced with a metal one but the bushing was missing so the quadrant was flopping around. That, coupled with a loose lock nut at the transmisison end of the clutch cable, made the clutch very quick, and eventually no dis-engaging completely. A new quadrant bushing, and re-adjustment and securing the lock nut, made brought the clutch back to normal. Several other small issues have been corrected, and others will be on my list for later attention.